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  • Archive for the 'Iran' Category

    Joe Biden and the debate

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th October 2012 (All posts by )

    A clownish Joe Biden mugged, groaned and interrupted Paul Ryan for 90 minutes last night. It was an odd spectacle but, apparently, just what the Democrats wanted. He lied about the Libya story and now Bill and Hillary Clinton may be thinking rebellion. Biden strongly suggested that the State Department was to blame for the murders because they did not ask for more security, in spite of the testimony before Congress the day before. If Hillary thinks she sees the bus coming, she may jump ship and it won’t be pretty.

    With tensions between President Obama and the Clintons at a new high, former President Bill Clinton is moving fast to develop a contingency plan for how his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should react if Obama attempts to tie the Benghazi fiasco around her neck, according to author Ed Klein.

    Biden also lied about Iran and their nuclear ambitions. He dismissed the danger of doing nothing. He said they do not have a “delivery system.” They have a delivery system named Hezbollah. Iran may not have an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the US, yet. If Iran were to choose to attack the US, a container ship and a US port are much more likely to be involved than a new missile. Certainly, Israel is within reach as are the countries of Europe. Saudi Arabia is within reach. The Sunni-Shia rivalry is sufficient motive but the other reasons should not be ignored. Iran is ruled by a sect of suicidal maniacs.

    Ryan capably described the Romney-Ryan tax proposals and his Medicare plan. I expected the abortion question and I thought it was well handled. Biden, of course, lied about the administration’s rules for health insurance coverage of contraception and abortion. That is not a big issue for me as I am pro-choice but the dishonesty is annoying. The “47% issue” and Ryan’s mention of a “30% who are takers” will not bother many people who agree and the offended are likely Obama voters no matter what happens.

    It will be interesting to see what the result will be. The left, of course, is excited by the nasty tone Biden adopted.

    On their $5 trillion tax cut, Romney/Ryan really need to either start naming the loopholes they’d close to pay for it or just admit they can’t make it revenue neutral without whacking the middle class. The VP was appropriately relentless on this point. Even I’m starting to feel sorry for them every time someone brings up this little flaw in their plan. I suspect I’m not alone in realizing that this country simply can’t afford to elect people promising a tax cut of this magnitude who, when it comes to paying for it, essentially say “trust us, we’ll find a bipartisan solution.”

    The “$Five trillion tax cut” has been thoroughly debunked, including Stephanie Cutter’s retreat from the claim.

    But, as I pointed out, Gov. Romney has already taken capital gains and dividends-for example-off the table. Now, here’s the revealing part: Larry said, and I know many in the investment community, including Mitt, feel exactly the same way, “I don’t consider those loopholes.”

    So, here is a lefty who wants to raise taxes on investment income and capital gains. I don’t see enough responses pointing out that this income has already been taxed as ordinary income. Mitt Romney and most investors had salary income, taxed at the rates of the time, which they saved and invested. The capital gains and dividend income is income that was already taxed once. The left simply does not understand this.

    Ryan kept his cool and Biden played the fool. Ann Althouse was impressed as I believe many women were impressed.

    As I said, I’m tired of the yelling. I found the debate really hard to watch, but I kept watching because I was committed to live-blogging. Even still, I got catatonic. There was a point when I didn’t write anything for 20 minutes and then I said:
    Biden has been yelling at Martha Raddatz for the last 15 minutes (as the subject is war). It’s so inappropriate!

    The previous post had been:
    The stress level is rising. Biden is so angry. Why is he yelling? Ryan needs nerves of steel not to lose his cool. I’m impressed that Ryan, when he gets his turn, is able to speak in an even, natural voice. It’s hard to concentrate on the policy itself, because the emotional static is so strong.

    That shows how I felt: pain. So here’s my question. Ratings were down, I see, but when were the ratings taken? In the beginning? How did the ratings drop off over the course of the 90 minutes?

    I have seen many comments about people, especially women, turning off the debate because of Biden’s rudeness and blustering. The ratings were down and the question is when were the ratings surveyed ? Of course, last night was also a big sports night. I think Ryan did better than the initial impressions suggest.

    If Obama uses the Biden debate tactic as a model for next Tuesday, the election may well be over.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, International Affairs, Iran, Leftism, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Politics, Taxes, War and Peace | 23 Comments »

    Reflections on the debate

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 6th October 2012 (All posts by )

    The reverberations are still going on after the Wednesday debate. The theme coming from the Obama campaign is that Romney did not tell the truth about his policies. Most of the discussion on the non-campaign left is like Bill Mahers’ who said “It looks like he took my million and spent it all on weed.”

    One of the most peculiar reactions was at the U of Wisconsin the next day. Hundreds of UW students were filing into an Obama on-campus campaign rally and were asked by a Breitbart writer if it was unfair that Obama couldn’t use his Teleprompter in the debate. Amazingly, most of the students agreed. What would a Teleprompter do ? Would they stop the debate for a few minutes while Obama’s handlers thought of a good response?

    The polls will take a few more days to show the response but already something is going on. A poll of Illinois’ 10th Congressional district last August was ignored but another poll now suggests that Illinois might be in play in this election.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Obama, Politics | 8 Comments »

    Obama and Netanyahu

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th September 2012 (All posts by )

    Jonathan Tobin:

    But not only was Obama not interested in any such gesture, he was not prepared to tell him this to his face. This snub may stem from the open dislike the two men have for each other, but as I wrote earlier this week, this is about more than personalities. The message from Washington was clear: Israel has no leverage over Obama on this issue even during the presidential campaign and will have even less in a second term.
     
    Netanyahu has been accused of trying to play politics with Obama during the last months of the presidential campaign or of favoring Mitt Romney. But whatever Netanyahu thinks privately, it should be understood that his concern transcends any misgivings about Obama’s penchant for picking fights with Israel during the past four years. If he really thought Romney might win, he would be showing more, not less patience with Obama since presumably Israel would only have a few months to wait before getting a different answer from a more sympathetic White House.

    It’s worth reading Tobin’s post in full, as well as his earlier post (linked in the quoted segment above).

    As Tobin makes clear, the media’s “clash of personalities” framing of the issue has helped Obama by obscuring the conflict of interests between his administration and Israel. Obama will do nothing substantial to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons and no longer cares who knows it. Perhaps if he is reelected he will begin to discuss “containing” Iran, and eventually will push for a regional nuclear treaty that will be designed to get Israel to disarm in exchange for Iranian promises. Good luck with that. In any event it seems unlikely that Obama, who was unwilling publicly to oppose the mullahs when it would have been easy to do and might have brought them to heel, will begin to act resolutely against them once they acquire nukes.

    The key insight from Tobin’s post may be in the last sentence of the second paragraph above. If Netanyahu were confident of a Romney victory it would make little sense for him to engage the obstreperous Obama now. The fact that Netanyahu decided to run the risk suggests that he thinks Obama is likely to be reelected or that little time remains for an effective strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. If this reasoning is correct Israel may attack soon, perhaps shortly after the election if Obama is reelected.

    The current situation is more than a little like the period before the Six Day War. There are bellicose enemies, feckless allies, an existential threat to the Jews, fruitless diplomacy under the clock, much FUD about a possible world or regional war as a result of an Israeli attack, a difficult tactical problem, and a coalition government in Israel. Some things that are different are the degree of direct US involvement in the Middle East, Islamism, the absence of the USSR, and probably a weaker political consensus within Israeli society. We will know soon enough what Netanyahu and his cabinet decide to do.

    To be, or not to be, that is the question:
    Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
    The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
    Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them…

    UPDATE: See also this post on Israeli politics (via Seth Mandel).

    UPDATE 2: Richard Fernandez puts Obama’s bungling into perspective in the context of long-term US policy mistakes:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iran, Israel, Middle East, Obama, War and Peace | 17 Comments »

    President Obama’s 9/11 in Libya

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 12th September 2012 (All posts by )

    President Obama faces his own “9/11″ today as Islamist crowds attacked both America’s Libyan and Egyptian embassies and killed our Ambassador in Libya and two other Americans with a rocket.

    So what can we expect from Pres. Obama?

    A strongly worded diplomatic communique? A demarche? An Arclight air strike across Libya?

    What we seem to have gotten was a weakly worded diplomatic communique with a political back pedal, when criticized.

    If this follows the usual Obama Administration script, expect to see multiple emails asking for campaign contributions based on Gov. Romney “not stopping criticism of the American government at the water’s edge“.

    UPDATE:
    Gatewaypundit now has photos of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’s body being paraded through the streets of Libya.
    What I cannot believe is that both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are claiming those photos are of the Ambassador being taken to a hospital.
    We should be getting a Pres. Theodore Roosevelt “America wants Pedicaris alive, or Raisuli dead!”.
    Obama Administration Reacting to Ambassidor Stevens's Murder
    Instead we are getting the ROTC Cadet from ANIMAL HOUSE screaming “REMAIN CALM. ALL IS WELL!” as the riot engulfs him.

    Posted in Americas, Anti-Americanism, Iran, Islam, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Politics, Terrorism, USA | 45 Comments »

    Egypt’s new president.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th June 2012 (All posts by )

    The Muslim Brotherhood candidate has now been declared the winner of the Egyptian election. Some foolish things are being said, as a consequence.

    Morsi’s election is tempered by the army’s recent move to significantly limit the powers of the presidency regarding the national budget, military oversight and declaring war. Following a court ruling this month to dissolve the Islamist-controlled parliament, the military also seized legislative powers and is angling to cement its legal authority over the nation by guiding the drafting of a new constitution.

    The military will not be able to control the destiny of the country. The army in Turkey was much stronger with a 60 year history of secularism and a recognized right to displace governments that violated Ataturk’s intent. Since the election of Erdogan, the army has been neutered and half the senior officers are in prison, either with no charges or trumped up charges.

    Barry Rubin has a pessimistic view of the future for Egypt.

    Let me divide the discussion into two parts: What does this tell about “us” and what does this tell about Egypt and its future?

    First, what does it tell about the West? The answer is that there are things that can be learned and understood, leading to some predictive power, but unfortunately the current hegemonic elite and its worldview refuse to learn.

    What could be more revealing of that fact than the words off Jacqueline Stevens in the New York Times: “Chimps randomly throwing darts at the possible outcomes would have done almost as well as the experts”? Well, it depends on which experts. Martin Kramer, one of those who was right all along about Egypt, has a choice selection of quotes from a certain kind of Middle East expert who was dead wrong. A near-infinite number of such quotes can be gathered from the pages of America’s most august newspapers.

    These people all share the current left-wing ideology; the refusal to understand the menace of revolutionary Islamism; the general belief that President Barack Obama is doing a great job; and the tendency to blame either Israel or America for the region’s problems. So if a big mistake has been made, it is that approach that has proven to be in the chimp category.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, India, Iran, Middle East, Religion | 3 Comments »

    The Polish “gaffe.”

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 1st June 2012 (All posts by )

    The nation of Poland and hundreds of thousands of Polish-Americans were outraged when President Obama referred last week to “Polish Death Camps” in a speech awarding a medal of freedom to a Polish American named Jan Kozielewski who was smuggled into a death camp and brought evidence of the Holocaust to President Roosevelt. Evidence that was ignored.

    There is a back story to this controversy that is only now starting to come out. In 2009, President Obama cancelled US missile sites that were intended to defend Poland and Czech Republic against Iranian missiles. The action was taken at the Russians’ request without even notifying the Polish government. That crisis began when the US promised to install such a missile site in 2008. After Obama took office, He cancelled the agreement without bothering to notify the Poles.

    Subsequently, Walesa refused to meet with Obama when he was on a visit to Poland. He said,” ‘It’s difficult to tell journalists what you’d like to say to the president of a superpower. This time I won’t tell him, I won’t meet him, it doesn’t suit me,’ Walesa told news station TVN24.”

    The European reaction was negative.

    The president hadn’t even had a chance to redecorate the Oval Office before he felt the need, in fall of 2009, to appease Moscow by scrapping plans to build a missile defense shield protecting Poland and the Czech Republic from attack by Russia, Iran or any other aggressor.

    At the time, the Polish minister of defense said, “This is catastrophic for Poland.”

    The message, once again, delivered loud and clear to America’s friends, allies and enemies alike, is that the U.S. can’t be relied on.

    This is what American voters get when they elect to the presidency an underexperienced man weighed down by an oversized ego.

    Now, Obama, who has been shown to be a petty man,

    got his revenge on Walesa by barring him from the ceremony.That was no gaffe. TelePrompTers don’t make gaffes.

    Posted in Europe, History, Human Behavior, Iran, Middle East, Obama, Politics, Russia, Terrorism | 12 Comments »

    Estimating Odds

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd March 2012 (All posts by )

    From a comment by “Eggplant” at Belmont Club:

    Supposedly the US has war gamed this thing and the prospects look poor. A war game is only as good as the assumptions programmed into it. Can the war game be programmed to consider the possibility that a single Iranian leader has access to an ex-Soviet nuke and is crazed enough to use it?
     
    Of course the answer is “No Way”.
     
    A valid war game would be a Monte Carlo simulation that considered a range of possible scenarios. However the tails of that Gaussian distribution would offer extremely frightening scenarios. The Israelis are in the situation where truly catastrophic scenarios have tiny probability but the expectation value [consequence times probability] is still horrific. However “fortune favors the brave”. Also being the driver of events is almost always better than passively waiting and hoping for a miracle. That last argument means the Israelis will launch an attack and probably before the American election.

    These are important points. The outcomes of simulations, including the results of focus groups used in business and political marketing, may be path-dependent. If they are the results of any one simulation may be misleading and it may be tempting to game the starting assumptions in order to nudge the output in the direction you want. It is much better if you can run many simulations using a wide range of inputs. Then you can say something like: We ran 100 simulations using the parameter ranges specified below and found that the results converged on X in 83 percent of the cases. Or: We ran 100 simulations and found no clear pattern in the results as long as Parameter Y was in the range 20-80. And by the way, here are the data. We don’t know the structure of the leaked US simulation of an Israeli attack on Iran and its aftermath.

    It’s also true, as Eggplant points out, that the Israelis have to consider outlier possibilities that may be highly unlikely but would be catastrophic if they came to pass. These are possibilities that might show up only a few times or not at all in the output of a hypothetical 100-run Monte Carlo simulation. But such possibilities must still be taken into account because 1) they are theoretically possible and sufficiently bad that they cannot be allowed to happen under any circumstances and 2) the simulation-based probabilities may be inaccurate due to errors in assumptions.

    Posted in Human Behavior, Iran, Israel, National Security, Predictions, Quotations, Statistics, Systems Analysis, War and Peace | 16 Comments »

    Israel, Obama, Propaganda, and Reality

    Posted by David Foster on 5th March 2012 (All posts by )

    As the election approaches, Obama is turning up the volume on his assertions that he’s been a great friend to Israel.

    This video tells a different story, and I think clearly a much truer one.

    The video is long…30 minutes…but it is well-done. If you value the safety and survival of Israel…if you are concerned about the threat of terrorism to Americans and others around the world…if you believe it would be a very bad thing for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons…and if you are even remotely considering voting for Barack Obama or sitting out the election, then you owe it to yourself to watch this video.

    link via Robert Avrech

    Posted in Iran, Israel, Leftism, Middle East, Obama, Politics, Video | 9 Comments »

    A Multipolar World

    Posted by onparkstreet on 22nd February 2012 (All posts by )

    CommodityOnline:

    India’s crude oil imports from Iran is facing a risk of potential disruption as increasing US and EU sanctions make it impossible for Indian ships to obtain insurance.

    Greg Scoblete, The Compass Blog (Real Clear World):

    I imagine if I were an Indian official, I’d be a bit peeved to learn that acting “responsibly” means privileging the interests of the United States over my own country. Nevertheless, Burns has a point. After all, India may rely on Iran for 12 percent of its oil imports, but look at what the United States has been willing to do for India:
     

    Presidents Obama and Bush have met India more than halfway in offering concrete and highly visible commitments on issues India cares about. On his state visit to India in November 2010, for example, President Obama committed the U.S. for the very first time to support India’s candidacy for permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council.

     
    I don’t know about you, but if the U.S. was asked to forgo 12 percent of its oil imports in exchange for another country’s endorsement for a seat on a multilateral forum, I’d make the trade. I mean, c’mon, 12 percent? The U.S. gets about that much from the Persian Gulf – and we barely pay that area any attention at all…

    Europa:

    “The EU-India free trade agreement will be the single biggest trade agreement in the world, benefiting 1.7 billion people,” said president Barroso. “It would mean new opportunities for both Indian and European companies. It would mean a key driver for sustainable growth, job creation and innovation in India and Europe.”
     
    The EU is India’s largest trading partner, accounting for about €86bn of trade in goods and services in 2010. Bilateral trade in goods rose by 20% between 2010 and 2011.”

    Asia Times Online:

    Last year Israel supplied India with $1.6 billion worth of military equipment and is India’s second-largest defense supplier after Russia. Sales are only going to rise. Indian defense procurements from Israel in the period 2002-07 have touched the $5 billion mark.

    And this doesn’t even get into the China-EU-US-Israel-Saudi Arabia wheels-within-wheels complications when it comes to arms deals, hoped for arms deals, trade deals, hoped for trade deals, energy politics, and the rest of it….

    It’s not 1985, now is it? The past is a different country, a Russian (Soviet)-oriented Cold War country used to thinking in terms of “Kissengerian” alliances and blocs. An intellectual adjustment may be needed. It’s like 3-D chess out there….

    Speaking of energy:

    “Was Saudi Arabia involved?” (Asia Times Online.) If it makes you feel better, let me point out that Saudi petrodollars continue to fund all sorts of interesting educational activities on the subcontinent, in Africa, and elsewhere, along with Iranian monies. So that’s nice.

    Posted in Business, China, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, India, International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Markets and Trading, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, North America | 2 Comments »

    Syria, Iran and the Risks of Tactical Geopolitics

    Posted by Zenpundit on 13th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com


    Mr. Nyet 

    World affairs are much more like spider’s web than the neat little drawers of an apothecary’s cabinet. In the latter,  the contents of each drawer are cleanly isolated and conveniently compartmentalized. What you do with the contents of one drawer today has no bearing on what you do next week with those of another. By contrast, with a spider’s web, when you touch a web at any point, not only do you find it to be sticky in a fragile sort of way, but your touch sends vibrations through every centimeter of the lattice.

    Which alerts the spiders.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, China, Europe, International Affairs, Iran, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Political Philosophy, Politics, Russia, United Nations, USA, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    Outing the Assassination Campaign Against Iranian Nuke Scientists

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Does this story mean that the US govt is not only not collaborating with Israel but is trying to undermine Israeli covert efforts? If so that is very bad news. We need more information. If the story is valid and our govt has decided to leak it to the press now, that suggests that we are 1) shockingly inept or 2) may be trying to cut a deal with the mullahs by sacrificing our ally or 3) both. Either way it sounds bad. I hope there’s more to the story.

    Posted in Iran, Israel, Middle East, National Security | 16 Comments »

    Anticipating An Israeli Attack On Iran

    Posted by Jonathan on 2nd February 2012 (All posts by )

    Is Israel preparing to attack Iran? asks David Ignatius.

    I think the obvious answer is yes. So why is the US govt trying to stop it?

    -Answer 1: Obama doesn’t want any trouble (e.g., high fuel prices, possible US involvement) going into the November elections.

    -Answer 2: Obama doesn’t want anyone to attack Iran under any circumstances.

    -Answer 3: Obama is confident that his overt/covert appeasement/negotiation campaign will eventually work and doesn’t want anyone else to front run him.

    -Answer 4: We really do want Israel to attack Iran, but as in 1981 with Iraq we will publicly condemn while privately applauding.

    -Answer 5: Obama is planning to attack Iran and doesn’t want to share credit with anyone else.

    ???

    UPDATE: Via Robert Schwartz, Barry Rubin’s well reasoned argument that there will be no attack on Iran.

    Posted in Iran, Israel, National Security, Politics, War and Peace | 30 Comments »

    “The Zionist Imperative”

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th January 2012 (All posts by )

    Caroline Glick:

    Today’s principal form of Jew-hatred is anti- Zionism. Anti-Zionism is similar to previous dominant forms of Jew hatred such as Christian anti-Judaism, xenophobic and racist anti- Semitism, and Communist anti-Jewish cosmopolitanism in the sense that it takes dominant, popular social trends and turns them against the Jews. Anti-Zionism’s current predominance owes to the convergence of several popular social trends which include Western post-nationalism, and anti-colonialism.

    Worth reading in full.

    UPDATE: David Foster provides a link to a well written blog post about a BDS conference at U. Penn.

    Posted in International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Judaism, Quotations, USA | 6 Comments »

    On “Leverages”

    Posted by onparkstreet on 11th January 2012 (All posts by )

    In a previous post, I asked a question about leverages in terms of foreign policy:

    A key–an essential–question on leverages at Abu Muqawama (Dr. Andrew Exum):

    Where things get tricky is when one tries to decide what to do about that. The principle problem is one that has been in my head watching more violent crackdowns in Bahrain and Egypt: the very source of U.S. leverage against the regimes in Bahrain and Egypt is that which links the United States to the abuses of the regime in the first place. So if you want to take a “moral” stand against the abuses of the regime in Bahrain and remove the Fifth Fleet, congratulations! You can feel good about yourself for about 24 hours — or until the time you realize that you have just lost the ability to schedule a same-day meeting with the Crown Prince to press him on the behavior of Bahrain’s security forces. Your leverage, such as it was, has just evaporated. The same is true in Egypt. It would feel good, amidst these violent clashes between the Army and protesters, to cut aid to the Egyptian Army. But in doing so, you also reduce your own leverage over the behavior of the Army itself.

    Okay, so we have leverage with an Army cracking down on its own people, an Army fattened on US military aid and training. I thought bilateral military training was supposed to mitigate the worst instincts of some armies? Isn’t that the theory? What does it mean to have leverage? To what end? To what purpose? I don’t know the answer and I don’t think anyone does, so Dr. Exum has a point. We have no strategy (link goes to Zen) within which to place “trade offs”. Well, if we do, I can’t see it.

    Greg Scoblete at The Compass (RealClearWorld) asks the question in a much better fashion (I enjoy reading that blog, whether I agree or disagree with specific points):

    But all of this begs an important question – leverage for what? The idea is that the U.S. invests in places like Bahrain and Egypt because it needs or wants something in return. During the Cold War, it was keeping these states out of the Soviet orbit. In the 1990s and beyond, it was ensuring these states remained friendly with Israel and accommodative to U.S. military power in the region. Today, what? What is it that U.S. policy requires from Egypt and Bahrain that necessitates supporting these regimes during these brutal crack downs?

    How should we view American policy toward the Middle East? What is the larger strategic framework within which we ought to view the various relationships? What is the optimal posture for the United States? Folks, I don’t know. I’d love to know your opinions on the subject.

    Posted in Blogging, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics, Russia, Society, Terrorism, United Nations, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st December 2011 (All posts by )

    Melanie Phillips:

    For some thirty years, Britain and the west have experienced war waged upon them by Iran – but fantastically, have refused to acknowledge this fact. They refused to fight back. They refused therefore also to acknowledge what has been crystal clear for at least the past two decades: that it was never going to be a choice between war or peace with Iran. It was always going to be a choice between fighting that war sooner, when Iran was weaker and the west had more chance of minimising the fall-out, and fighting that war later, when Iran would be much stronger – and possibly even a nuclear power – and when the consequences for the west would be that much more terrible.

    Posted in Iran, Quotations, War and Peace | 35 Comments »

    As long as we are talking about energy issues….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 31st July 2011 (All posts by )

    The US plans to hold what State Department officials are calling “exploratory talks” in Riyadh next week to gauge Saudi objectives behind their interest in a civilian nuclear deal. The US also wants to explore whether the Saudi government would accept restrictions to ensure its nuclear fuel is used purely for civilian purposes, according to congressional sources.
    .
    The US has recently concluded civilian nuclear trade deals – or so-called “123” agreements – with India and the United Arab Emirates and is in advanced discussions with countries including Jordan, Vietnam, and South Korea.

    Christian Science Monitor

    Top exporter Saudi Arabia approved sales of 3 million barrels of extra crude to India for August to make up for a loss of shipments from Iran due to a payment dispute, sources with direct knowledge of the sale said on Tuesday.
    .
    Iran cut sales for August to pressure Indian refiners into settling $5 billion in debts for oil supplied, after New Delhi failed to find a way around US and UN sanctions that make financing deals with Tehran difficult.

    TradeArabia

    After the talks by Kaplan and Lynch at the sponsors’ breakfast, Francis “Bing” West, who was sitting near me, said he found them wildly over optimistic about the next several decades, which he thinks will be dominated by the proliferation of nuclear weaponry. But let him tell it his own way: “That was insane. The lesson of Libya is, Get a nuclear weapon and tell everyone to go fuck themselves. Qaddafi got rid of his nukes and we said, ‘OK, you’re out of there.'”

    Tom Ricks, Best Defense

    Pakistan is currently facing a major energy crisis, which some analysts believe may be the worst in its history. It desperately needs Iranian gas and is not shy to say it. “Our dependence on the Iran pipeline is very high. There is no other substitute at present to meet our growing demand for energy” stated Pakistani minister for petroleum, Asim Hussain recently.

    the Atlantic

    Supposedly, the Bush administration attempted to use Musharraf to convince the Iranians not to go nuclear, which is one of several reasons the administration went so easy on his regime. Yeah, yeah, I know, but someone in the big-time thought it might work. Before you blow a gasket, remember that the world is complicated. There are so many complicated international relationships that Washington has no idea how to handle them in concert. Action A makes issue B better but issue C worse. That’s what happens when you have too many fingers in too many pies.

    Why is “drill here, drill now” not a national security imperative?

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Energy & Power Generation, International Affairs, Iran, Miscellaneous, National Security, Politics | 18 Comments »

    On the ideas that follow us, one decade to the next….

    Posted by onparkstreet on 11th July 2011 (All posts by )

    Detente’s greatest achievement was the opening of consistent contact between the United States and the USSR in the early 1970s—a gradually intensifying engagement on many levels and in many areas that, as it grew over the years, would slowly but widely open the Soviet Union to information, contacts, and ideas from the West and would facilitate an ongoing East-West dialogue that would influence the thinking of many Soviet officials and citizens.

    From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War by Robert M. Gates. (I am currently reading this book).

    Indeed Washington’s on-again off-again attention to the region, driven by relatively short term developments like the Soviet-Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the war against terror, makes Iranian and Chinese overtures appealing to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

    A Sino-Persian grab for the Indian Ocean? by Jamsheed K. Choksy (Small Wars Journal)

    Earlier this month the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, twisted his mouth into the shape of a pretzel to explain why it was okay for the U.S. to support Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal but not okay to support North Korea’s arsenal and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He also saw no problem with the United States as much declaring war on India when he sympathized with Pakistan’s need to use nuclear weapons against India in order to feel safe.
     
    Then Americans wonder why Pyongyang and Tehran laugh at Washington’s lectures on nuclear proliferation. The leaders of both regimes have been doing clandestine nuke business with Pakistan for decades. They know Pakistan is the biggest nuclear weapons proliferator on the planet — and so does Mullen, who is the highest ranking military officer in the USA and as such is the principal military advisor to the President of the United States, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense.
     
    That’s not the half of the double standard America has practiced with regard to Pakistan. Barely a day goes by that the American news media doesn’t warn of the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran because of the regime’s end-of-time religious views, which American news analyst John Batchelor has termed “hallucinatory.”
     
    It doesn’t get more hallucinatory than the views of Pakistani media mogul, Majeed Nizami, the owner of the Nawa-i-Waqt, The Nation, and Waqt TV channel. During a recent speech at a function given in his honor he declared that Pakistan’s missiles and nuclear bombs were superior to “India’s ghosts,” and that unleashing nuclear war against India was imperative. “Don’t worry if a couple of our cities are also destroyed in the process.”
     
    That would be the same Nation newspaper that cites the United States government as being behind every terrorist incident in the world, including the Times Square attack.
     
    If you think Nizami is an isolated nut case, you don’t know much about him, or Pakistan. He is the true face of the most powerful factions in Pakistan including its military leaders.
     
    But in the view of the U.S. government and news media it’s okay for Pakistan’s military to hold hallucinatory views whereas it’s not okay for Iran’s leaders because, well, because.
     
    It’s the same for anti-Semitic views that abound in Pakistan. In the same article that discussed Nizami’s view that nuclear Armageddon was the ticket to peace in South Asia, Pakistani journalist Shakil Chaudhary reported on a June 18 column in Nizami’s Nawa-i-Waqt paper in which Lt. Gen. Abdul Qayyum (ret), former chairman of Pakistan Steel Mills, approvingly quoted Adolph Hitler as saying: “I could have annihilated all the Jews in the world, but I left some of them so that you can know why I was killing them.”

    He ain’t heavy, he’s my genocidal, hallucinatory, two-faced ‘ally’ by blogger Pundita.

    Why do you suppose certain factions in DC appear so adamant on retaining Pakistan as a “strategic asset” post 9-11 and post Abbottabad? CBz blogger Joseph Fouche recently posted a nice piece about the tendency for some to see patterns and intrigues when mere muddle may well explain reality. Sadly, I am prone to this….

    So what exactly is our muddle? Is what I’ve posted above overstated and alarmist? State and USAID want to keep its various lucrative aid programs? The Pentagon/DOD want to keep its favorite “proxy” Army for future use against any kind of “sino-islamic” alliance – or Russia or Iran? Tons of money (supposedly….take all of this with a grain of salt) sloshing around DC from various foreign entities, such as the Saudis or the Pak Mil/ISI? Plain old strategic “incompetence” typical of a big, energetic and free-wheeling democracy?

    What other rationales might be keeping warring DC factions up at night? Placating the Saudis and keeping the oil flowing? Monitoring Pakistani nukes? (Okay, this one for sure). Preventing even more proliferation via Pakistani-Saudi transfers?

    The world is three dimensional and complicated with various currents pulling our policy makers in different directions. I’d be delighted to hear creative thinking on any of these topics by one of the Republican presidential candidates. Your thoughts? Opinions? Relevent anecdotes, articles, films, or books?

    Help a gal out, people.

    Posted in Afghanistan 2050, Afghanistan/Pakistan, China, Economics & Finance, History, International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Military Affairs, Russia, Terrorism | 7 Comments »

    Rapturous times, neh?

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 21st May 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted at Zenpundit — apocalyptic movements, best readings, budget shortfalls, lack of support for scholarship in crucial natsec areas — and with a h/t to Dan from Madison for the video that triggered this post ]
    .
    .
    What with rapture parties breaking out all over, billboards in Dubai proclaiming The End and thousands of Hmong tribespeople in Vietnam among the believers, this whole sorry business of Harold Camping‘s latest end times prediction is catching plenty of attention. I thought it might be helpful to recommend some of the more interesting and knowledgeable commentary on Camping’s failed prophecy.

    *

    First, three friends and colleagues of mine from the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University, about which I will have a further paragraph later:

    Richard Landes of BU has a text interview here, and a TV interview here. His forthcoming book, Heaven on Earth, is a monumental [554 pp.] treatment of millenarian movements ranging “from ancient Egypt to modern-day UFO cults and global Jihad” with a focus on “ten widely different case studies, none of which come from Judaism or Christianity” — and “shows that many events typically regarded as secular–including the French Revolution, Marxism, Bolshevism, Nazism-not only contain key millennialist elements, but follow the apocalyptic curve of enthusiastic launch, disappointment and (often catastrophic) re-entry into ‘normal time'”.

    Stephen O’Leary of USC wrote up the Harold Camping prediction a couple of days ago on the WSJ “Speakeasy” blog. He’s the rhetorician and communications scholar who co-wrote the first article on religion on the internet, and his specialty as it applies to apocalyptic thinking is doubly relevant: the timing of the end — and the timing of the announcement of the end. His book, Arguing the Apocalypse, is the classic treatment.

    Damian Thompson of the Daily Telegraph is a wicked and witty blogger on all things Catholic and much else beside — the normally staid Church Times (UK) once called him a “blood-crazed ferret” and he wears the quote with pride on his blog, where you can also find his comments on Camping. Damian’s book, Waiting for Antichrist, is a masterful treatment of one “expecting” church in London, and has a lot to tell us about the distance between the orthodoxies of its clergy and the various levels of enthusiasm and eclectic beliefs of their congregants.

    Three experts, three highly recommended books.

    *

    Two quick notes for those whose motto is “follow the money” (I prefer “cherchez la femme” myself, but chacun a son gout):

    The LA Times has a piece that examines the “worldwide $100-million campaign of caravans and billboards, financed by the sale and swap of TV and radio stations” behind Camping’s more recent prediction (the 1994 version was less widely known).

    Well worth reading.

    And for those who suspect the man of living “high on the hog” — this quote from the same piece might cause you to rethink the possibility that the man’s sincere (one can be misguided with one’s integrity intact, I’d suggest):

    Though his organization has large financial holdings, he drives a 1993 Camry and lives in a modest house.

    *

    Now back to the Center for Millennial Studies.

    While it existed, it was quite simply the world center of apocalyptic, messianic and millenarian studies. CMS conferences brought together a wide range of scholars of different eras and areas, who could together begin to fathom the commonalities and differences — anthropological, theological, psychological, political, local, global, historical, and contemporary — of movements such as the Essenes, the Falun Gong, the Quakers, Nazism, the Muenster Anabaptists, al-Qaida, the Taiping Rebellion, Branch Davidians, the Y2K scare, classic Marxism, Aum Shinrikyo and Heaven’s Gate.

    And then the year 2000 came and went, and those who hadn’t followed the work of the CMS and its associates thought it’s all over, no more millennial expectation, we’ve entered the new millennium with barely a hiccup.

    Well, guess what. It was at the CMS that David Cook presented early insights from his definitive work on contemporary millennial movements in Islam — and now we have millennial stirrings both on the Shia side (President Ahmadinejad et al) and among the Sunni (AQ theorist Abu Mus’ab Al-Suri devotes the last hundred pages of his treatise on jihad to “signs of the end times”)…

    Apocalyptic expectation continues. But Richard Landes’ and Stephen O’Leary’s fine project, the CMS, is no longer with us to bring scholars together to discuss what remains one of the key topics of our times. When Richard’s book comes out, buy it and read it — and see if you don’t see what I mean.

    Or read Jean-Pierre Filiu‘s Apocalypse in Islam. Please. Or Tim Furnish‘s recent paper.

    *

    And while it may not see Judgment Day or the beginning of the end of the world as predicted, what this week has seen is the end of funding of Fulbright scholarships for doctoral dissertation research abroad. But then as Abu Muqawama points out:

    hey, it’s probably safe to cut funding for these languages. It’s hard to see Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan or anywhere in the Arabic-speaking world causing issues in terms of U.S. national security interests anytime soon.

    Right?

    So the CMS isn’t the only significant scholarly venue we’ve lost to terminal lack of vision.

    Posted in Academia, Blogging, Book Notes, Christianity, Education, History, International Affairs, Iran, Islam, National Security, Predictions, Religion, Rhetoric, That's NOT Funny, Vietnam | Comments Off

    The Glenn Beck, Mahdism and Antichrist series

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 27th April 2011 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted from Zenpundit ]
    .

    Glenn Beck has a new documentary coming out tonight on Mahdism and the Antichrist.

    He calls it “the documentary that you will not see on mainstream television” and to get to see it, you have to be a subscriber to Beck’s Insider Extreme channel on the web. But then that fits with Beck’s emphasis right now — he doesn’t mind crying shame on the media for not carrying the documentary, but he doesn’t want unbelievers to see it either — he told his radio audience today:

    Make sure you see it tonight at nine o’clock. And if I may recommend that you watch it with some friends. Invite some friends over, some like-minded people, don’t try to get any converts in. Pull up the nets, man, pull up the nets.

    So okay — it won’t be on “mainstream television” but it will be seen in a million “like-minded” homes, and it will influence them, it will influence their perspective on Islam, and on the Middle East.

    Here’s a description of what they can expect, drawn from Joel Rosenberg‘s blog today. Joel is the author of the apocalyptic thriller The Twelfth Imam, has seen the rough cut and will be appearing on the video, along with those he lists here:

    Tonight on his website, Glenn Beck will premiere his new documentary film, “Rumors of War — Part Two.” As with Part One, I was interviewed for the film…

    The documentary examines current events and trends in the Middle East and the Islamic world from various vantage points — Biblical End Times theology, Jewish End Times theology, and Islamic End Times theology. It discusses the latest threats from the Radical Islamic world to Israel, the West and our allies. It features a wide range of Jewish, Muslim and evangelical Christian authors and commentators in a balanced yet provocative and fascinating way. Among them:

    • Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the U.N.
    • Reza Kahlili, former CIA agent inside Iran and author of A Time To Betray
    • Tim LaHaye, author of the Left Behind novel series
    • Brigitte Gabriel, author of They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It
    • Joel Richardson, author of The Islamic Antichrist
    • Dr. Zudi Jasser, president of American Islamic Forum for Democracy

    *

    The thing is, Beck doesn’t know a whole lot about these things, and his advisers get things wrong — sometimes flat out wrong, sometimes just out of proportion — too.

    I aim to review Beck’s documentary along with its predecessor, and the books of Joel Richardson and Joel Rosenberg, and also take a look at some other books and articles that cover the same materials with greater scholarship and less religious special interest — notably the works of David Cook, J-P Filiu and Timothy Furnish — clear up some of this issues in which definitive corrections are in order, suggest areas where the preponderance of evidence and informed commentary leans away from Beck’s position, and raise again those urgent questions which remain.

    Because from where I sit, Glenn Beck has hit on one of our blind spots — and is giving us a dangerously distorted mirror in which to view it.

    *

    Here’s Beck talking about the upcoming documentary this morning on his radio show:

    Tonight, you don’t want to miss, on Insider Extreme, something that we have been trying to tell the story for quite some time, and I have told it to you many times before, the story of the Twelfth Imam, well this is not the full story of the Twelfth Imam, this is what people Middle East believe about the Twelfth Imam, or the Mahdi as the… Sunnis? Sunnis are in Egypt, Shias are in, ah, is it Shias in Iran or is it the other way around? I think it’s S.. Shias are in Iran. One believes in the Twelfth Imam, the others believe in the Mahdi, same guy, it is the… the… you would know it as the Antichrist. It is the, it has every earmarking of the Antichrist, every single one, I mean, he makes a peace for seven years with Egypt, he viol… — I mean with Israel, he violates it, he marks people with a number, he beheads people if they don’t submit, I mean it’s all there. It’s all there. And Ahmadinejad says that he is alive and well and orchestrating the things in the Middle East.

    Did you get that? He’s not sure: “is it Shias in Iran or is it the other way around?”

    If Beck has been working on this documentary for a year now, let’s hope he does in fact know the difference between Sunni and Shi’a, and that he’s using the popular gag technique of pretending not to know, so his audience — who haven’t all been working on a documentary and may well not know — can feel all the more strongly “he’s one of us”. And besides, Sunni, Shia, it’s all the same, Mahdi, Twelfth Imam, no difference at all, right?

    So that’s the level of required accuracy that’s tolerated here. Which side was it wanted to keep slavery? I forget now, I think it may have been the South. Belfast — now is that Catholic, or Protestant?

    *

    And one last quick note from the same post on Joel Rosenberg’s blog:

    As far as I can tell, Glenn Beck is leaving the Fox News Channel in part because Fox is opposed to him devoting so much time on his program to End Times issues, Bible prophecy, Iran’s eschatology, and the linkage of these things to left wing efforts to sow seeds of revolution and chaos. It’s too bad, really.

    That’s an interesting data point.

    *

    There will be plenty to talk about, anyway:

    the new documentary, Joel Rosenberg’s thriller, which I enjoyed, Joel Richardson, with whom I correspond and whom I like, the new Mahdist video in Iran which is causing quite a stir, and may or may not be an “official” Iranian production, the vexed question — vexed in all three Abrahamic faiths — of whether you can hasten the coming of the Awaited One and if so, how, and the implications of all this both in the United States and in the Middle East, the Iranian nuclear program…

    The Glenn Beck, Mahdism & Antichrist blog series, coming up.

    Posted in Beck-O-Lanche, Christianity, International Affairs, Iran, Islam, Middle East, Religion, Rhetoric, Terrorism | 12 Comments »

    Soon soon coming of the Mahdi?

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 28th March 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    *

    Okay, I’d say things are heating up. Here’s a screen grab from what we are led to believe is a recent video from Iran, made with government backing as described below the fold.

    death-of-abdullah-sign-of-mahdi.jpg

    This does not bode well…

    *

    The Christian thriller novelist Joel Rosenberg (author of The Twelfth Imam) has a new blog post up, in which he cites a Christian Broadcasting Network story — which in turn refers to a video posted with some introductory materials on his blog by Reza Kahlili (author of A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran).

    According to Kahlili, who has also posted the full video to YouTube, it is a half-hour long program sponsored by the Basij militia and the Office of the President of Iran, affirming the soon-return of the Mahdi.

    And containing “inflammatory language” about King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (see subtitle above)? Can I say that?

    For what it’s worth, the supposed “hadith” about the death of King Abdullah is discussed in some detail at The Wake-Up Project, so it’s definitely “in the air” — but I don’t recall seeing any references to it in Abbas Amanat, Abdulazziz Sachedina, or any of the lists of Signs of the Coming I’ve read, so my suspicion is that this is an opportunistic addition to the corpus rather than a reliable hadith.

    Which brings me to my last point:

    I am not posting these materials to encourage panic — that’s what terrorism strives for, and it is the very opposite of what I would wish to see. If anything, these stirrings of Mahdist sentiment should make us more careful and attentive to the serious scholarly work that has been done in this area. Jean-Pierre Filiu‘s book Apocalypse in Islam, which I reviewed for Jihadology, would be an excellent place to start.

    *

    There are plenty of other things going on that I would love to track, blog about or comment on these days, but for the next while I shall try to restrain myself and focus in on this particular issue and its ramifications:

    • Contemporary Shi’ite Mahdist expectation
    • The Iranian nuclear program in the light of Mahdist expectation
    • Iranian attempts to use Mahdism to unite Sunni and Shi’a
    • Mahdism and jihad
    • The role of Khorasan in Mahdist rhetoric
    • Christian apocalyptic responses to Mahdist stirrings
    • Joel Rosenberg‘s book, The Twelfth Imam
    • Joel Richardson‘s book, The Islamic Antichrist
    • Glenn Beck‘s increasing focus on Iranian Mahdism
    • The increasing influence of Islamic and Christian apocalyptic on geopolitics

    This is a pretty complex and potent mix of topics, and while I’ll post some individual pieces of the puzzle as I see it, I shall also try to put together a “bigger picture” piece with the whole mosaic laid out.

    *

    Apart from that, I remain deeply committed to questions of chivalry and peace-making, and will continue to monitor developments and write what I can on those topics as time allows…

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Anti-Americanism, Blogging, Christianity, International Affairs, Iran, Islam, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Predictions, Religion, Rhetoric | 5 Comments »

    Honor killings

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 7th March 2011 (All posts by )

    I had occasion today to give myself a quick refresher course on honor killings, one form of which is already present in the Torah as of Leviticus 21.9:

    And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.

    and found myself once again noting that there is a substantial swathe of regions of the world where honor killings are found, and that where it is found (including in immigrant communities from those parts of the world) the practice is not confined to any one religious group.

    Hence this DoubleQuote:

    I think it is appropriate to consider honor killing a form of religious violence when the claim is made by those who do the killing that they are acting in the name of their religion — but that it is also important to distinguish such acts committed in a cultural context in which they are practiced across religions from acts that are the exclusive province of one religious tradition.

    There are examples of honor killings which are performed in the name of Islam, and/or advocated by Islamic scholars — and the same could no doubt be said of other religious traditions — but honor killing as a genre is fundamentally more cultural than religious.

    Sources: Brandeis studyBBCSydney Morning Herald

    The analytic point:

    From my point of view as an analyst, it is important to note and compare both religious and cultural drivers — neither avoiding mention of the one out of “correctness” — nor overlooking the other for lack of comparative data.

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Britain, Christianity, Human Behavior, Immigration, India, International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Judaism, Middle East, Morality and Philosphy, Religion, Society | 36 Comments »

    Afghanistan, Egypt and Obama

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 30th January 2011 (All posts by )

    I have previously posted my opinion that Afghanistan is not worth the cost. I stated my reasons why we should leave here and here and here. Nothing has changed there but a lot is happening elsewhere in the Middle East.

    Egypt’s escalating tensions amount to the first real foreign crisis for the Obama administration that it did not inherit. The crisis serves as a test of Obama’s revamped White House operation. Daley, a former Commerce secretary in the Clinton administration, is now running a staff that is briefing Obama regularly on Egypt.

    They have handled it badly. This is a very dangerous time for us. The Egyptian Army seems to be siding with the protesters. That may or may not last.

    The left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that Egyptian army officers in Cairo’s central square have tossed aside their helmets and joined the crowd. “The Army and the people are one,” they chanted. MSNBC’s photoblog shows protesters jubilantly perched on M1A1 tanks. The real significance of these defections is that the army officers would not have done so had they not sensed which way the winds were blowing — in the Egyptian officer corps.

    And even as Mubarak tottered, the Saudi king threw his unequivocal backing behind the aging dictator — not hedging like Obama — but the Iranians continued to back the Egyptian protesters. The Saudi exchange tumbled 6.44% on news of unrest from Cairo. Meanwhile, the Voice of America reports that Israel is “extremely concerned” that events in Egypt could mean the end of the peace treaty between the two countries. If Mubarak isn’t finished already, a lot of regional actors are calculating like he might be.

    But Washington will not be hurried. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that President Obama will review his Middle Eastern policy after the unrest in Egypt subsides. The future, in whose spaces the administration believed its glories to lie, plans to review its past failures in the same expansive place. Yet time and oil wait for no one. Crude oil prices surged as the markets took the rapid developments in. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu observed that any disruption to Middle East oil supplies “could actually bring real harm.”

    Of course, Mr Chu should not worry as we have wind and solar to take up the slack. Actually, we get our oil from Canada and Mexico but the price of oil shifts with the world’s supply.

    The present Obama commitment to Afghanistan is ironic since he promised to bring troops home but he has declared that Iraq was NOT necessary and Afghanistan is. This is slightly crazy. The Iraq invasion was an example of US power being applied in a critical location; right in the middle of the Middle East. Afghanistan is a remote tribal society reachable only through unreliable Pakistan. It has minimal effect on world events. We went there to punish the Taliban for harboring the people who attacked our country. Thousands of them have been killed. We have little of interest there now. We should have left last year.

    With a Shi’ite dominated government in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a Muslim Brotherhood that may keep Egypt in neutral or tacitly accept Teheran’s leadership, how could things possibly get worse?

    They can if Saudi Arabia starts to go. And what response can the U.S. offer? With U.S. combat power in landlocked Afghanistan and with the last U.S. combat forces having left Iraq in August 2010, the U.S. will have little on the ground but the State Department. “By October 2011, the US State Department will assume responsibility for training the Iraqi police and this task will largely be carried out by private contractors.” The bulk of American hard power will be locked up in secondary Southwest Asian theater, dependent on Pakistan to even reach the sea with their heavy equipment.

    This is not where we want to be. The problem is that Obama and Hillary and the rest of this administration have no concept of strategy.

    The Obama administration made fundamental strategic mistakes, whose consequences are now unfolding. As I wrote in the Ten Ships, a post which referenced the Japanese Carrier fleet which made up the strategic center of gravity of the enemy during the Pacific War, the center of gravity in the present crisis was always the Middle East. President Obama, by going after the criminals who “attacked America on 9/11″ from their staging base was doing the equivalent of bombing the nameless patch of ocean 200 miles North of Oahu from which Nagumo launched his raid. But he was not going after the enemy center of gravity itself.

    For all of its defects the campaign in Iraq was at least in the right place: at the locus of oil, ideology and brutal regimes that are the Middle East. Ideally the campaign in Iraq would have a sent a wave of democratization through the area, undermined the attraction of radical Islam, provided a base from which to physically control oil if necessary. That the campaign failed to attain many of its objectives should not obscure the fact that its objectives were valid. It made far more strategic sense than fighting tribesmen in Afghanistan. Ideology, rogue regimes, energy are the three entities which have replaced the “ten ships” of 70 years ago. The means through which these three entities should be engaged ought to be the subject of reasoned debate, whether by military, economic or technological means. But the vital nature of these objectives ought not to be. Neutralize the intellectual appeal of radical Islam, topple the rogue regimes, and ease Western dependence on oil and you win the war. Yet their centrality, and even their existence is what the politicians constantly deny.

    Events are unfolding, but they have not yet run their course; things are still continuing to cascade. If the unrest spreads to the point where the Suez and regional oil fall into anti-Western hands, the consequences would be incalculable. The scale of the left’s folly: their insistence on drilling moratoriums, opposition to nuclear power, support of negotiations with dictators at all costs, calls for unilateral disarmament, addiction to debt and their barely disguised virulent anti-Semitism should be too manifest to deny.

    Leftism is making common cause with Islamic terrorism. Why ? I don’t really know. Some of it may be the caricature of Jews making money and being good at business. Some may simply be the extension of animosity to Israel extending to all Jews. The people behind Obama are not free of these sentiments. His Justice Department is filled with lawyers who defended terrorists at Guantanamo. Holder seems uninterested in voting rights cases if a black is the offender. He was even unwilling to say that Islamic terrorism was behind 9/11.

    Because it will hit them where it hurts, in the lifestyle they somehow thought came from some permanent Western prosperity that was beyond the power of their fecklessness to destroy. It will be interesting to see if anyone can fill up their cars with carbon credits when the oil tankers stop coming or when black gold is marked at $500 a barrel. It is even possible that within a relatively short time the only government left friendly to Washington in the Middle East may be Iraq. There is some irony in that, but it is unlikely to be appreciated.

    I would add a bit to this from one of my favorite essays on the topic. It compares Gorbachev to Obama.

    Nor are the two men, themselves, remotely comparable in their backgrounds, or political outlook. Gorbachev, for instance, had come up from tractor driver, not through elite schools including Harvard Law; he lacked the narcissism that constantly seeks self-reflection through microphones and cameras, or the sense that everything is about him.

    On the other hand, some interesting comparisons could be made between the thuggish party machine of Chicago, which raised Obama as its golden boy; and the thuggish party machine of Moscow, which presented Gorbachev as its most attractive face.

    Both men have been praised for their wonderful temperaments, and their ability to remain unperturbed by approaching catastrophe. But again, the substance is different, for Gorbachev’s temperament was that of a survivor of many previous catastrophes.

    Yet they do have one major thing in common, and that is the belief that, regardless of what the ruler does, the polity he rules must necessarily continue. This is perhaps the most essential, if seldom acknowledged, insight of the post-modern “liberal” mind: that if you take the pillars away, the roof will continue to hover in the air.

    In another passage:

    There is a corollary of this largely unspoken assumption: that no matter what you do to one part of a machine, the rest of the machine will continue to function normally.

    A variant of this is the frequently expressed denial of the law of unintended consequences: the belief that, if the effect you intend is good, the actual effect must be similarly happy.

    Very small children, the mad, and certain extinct primitive tribes, have shared in this belief system, but only the fully college-educated liberal has the vocabulary to make it sound plausible.

    With an incredible rapidity, America’s status as the world’s pre-eminent superpower is now passing away. This is a function both of the nearly systematic abandonment of U.S. interests and allies overseas, with metastasizing debt and bureaucracy on the home front.

    The turmoil in Egypt is a test that, I fear, Obama and his Secretary of State, will not pass.

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Anti-Americanism, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, History, International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Leftism, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Politics, Terrorism | 1 Comment »

    666.6 recurring?

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 29th January 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    I’m hoping to give an extended treatment to Glenn Beck’s new documentary on Mahdism and Iranian nuclear ambitions shortly, not because I think Mahdism is unimportant – I don’t – but because I don’t think Beck is listening to some of the people with the most in-depth knowledge of the situation.

    In the meantime, I couldn’t resist the screen-grab from the docu in Quote #2, which accompanied Joel Rosenberg saying:

    This end times theology is not only what he believes, but it is why Ahmadinejad is putting his foot to the gas of accelerating Iran’s nuclear weapons development program, and the ballistic missile development as well – because once Ahmadinejad is able to acquire nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them, Ahmadinejad could do in about six minutes what it took Adolf Hitler about six years to do, and that is to kill 6 million Jews.

    You can have Nero for 666, or Aleister Crowley, or Ronald Wilson Reagan, or this Pope or any previous holder of that title, or Muhammad, or bar codes, or Ahmadinejad – but surely not all of them at once.

    *

    I’m shifting from talk about 666, the number of the Beast, to talk about the Antichrist now — which may or may not be a different topic, see for instance these notes from Scofield on Revelation

    *

    Joel Richardson, an email friend of mine who is the author of The Islamic AntiChrist and is featured in the documentary, believes the Antichrist and the Mahdi are one and the same: he calls the expectation of the Mahdi’s coming an “anti-parallel” of Christian expectation of the Second Coming of Christ, and says “Islam has literally taken the whole story and flipped it on its head”. Joel Rosenberg, whose latest thriller is titled The Twelfth Imam, and who is also featured, says that in his view the Mahdi may be “an” – but not “The” – Antichrist.

    *

    Back to the Beast:

    Rev. Ian Paisley, Baron Bannside, still says 666 is the Pope — but then he’s both a minister of religion and a Unionist politician from Northern Ireland.

    Posted in Britain, Christianity, Film, Iran, Islam, National Security, Religion, Rhetoric | 1 Comment »

    “Whoever took religion seriously?”

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 8th January 2011 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from the DIME/PMESII boards at LinkedIn and Zenpundit ]

    I’ve been hammering away at the importance of a nuanced understanding of religious drivers in successful modeling of our world, and today I ran across some paragraphs from a book by Gary Sick that explain, forcefully and briefly, just why this seems like a big deal to me.

    1

    Sick, who was the National Security Council’s point man on Iran at the time of the Ayatollah Khomeini‘s Iranian Revolution, recounts how totally unprepared we were for the sudden emergence of a theocracy in his book, All Fall Down:

    Vision is influenced by expectations, and perceptions — especially in politics — are colored by the models and analogies all of us carry in our heads. Unfortunately, there were no relevant models in Western political tradition to explain what we were seeing in Iran during the revolution. This contradiction between expectation and reality was so profound and so persistent that it interfered fundamentally with the normal processes of observation and analysis on which all of us instinctively rely.
     
    On one level, it helps to explain why the early-warning functions of all existing intelligence systems — from SAVAK to Mossad to the CIA — failed so utterly in the Iranian case. Certainly, US intelligence capability to track the shah’s domestic opposition had been allowed to deteriorate almost to the vanishing point. But even if it had not, it would probably have looked in the wrong place. Only in retrospect is it obvious that a good intelligence organization should have focused its attention on the religious schools, the mosques and the recorded sermons of an aged religious leader who had been living in exile for fourteen years. As one State Department official remarked in some exasperation after the revolution, “Whoever took religion seriously?”
     
    Even after it became clear that the revolution was gaining momentum and that the movement was being organized through the mosques in the name of Khomeini, observers of all stripes assumed that the purely religious forces were merely a means to the end of ousting the shah and that their political role would be severely limited in the political environment following the shah’s departure, The mosque, it was believed, would serve as the transmission belt of the revolution, but its political importance would quickly wane once its initial objectives had been achieved.

    2

    The blissful ignorance didn’t end back there in 1979. Right at the end of 2006, reporter Jeff Stein asked Rep. Silvestre Reyes (Dem, TX), the incoming head of the House Intelligence Committee (which has oversight of the entire US Intelligence Community) whether Al-Qaida was Sunni or Shiite – noting in two asides, “Members of the Intelligence Committee, mind you, are paid $165,200 a year to know more than basic facts about our foes in the Middle East” and “To me, it’s like asking about Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland: Who’s on what side?”

    Reyes guessed wrong – not good – and so did a lot of other senior people in the FBI, Congress and so forth. Understandable perhaps, but still, not good.

    The popular media keep many of the rest of us confused, too. Glenn Beck has been misinformed by the Christian thriller writer Joel Rosenberg, and refers to the “Twelvers” when he means the “Anjoman-e Hojjatieh” -which, to extend Stein’s point, is the equivalent of saying “Catholic Church” when you mean “Legionnaires of Christ”.

    3

    Okay, we know that religion has something to do with all this Iran – and Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iraq, and Yemen, and Somalia, and Nigeria — and maybe even homegrown — mess. And I agree, other people’s religions really aren’t our business normally, and it’s not surprising if we don’t know much about them.

    Except, I’d say, when religions take up the sword, or have significant power to influence decisions about the use of nuclear weapons — at which point it’s appropriate to get up to speed…

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Beck-O-Lanche, Christianity, History, International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Religion, Terrorism | 12 Comments »

    Follow-up: Martyrdom, messianism and Julian Assange

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 24th December 2010 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    This is a follow-up to my earlier post on Zenpundit and ChicagoBoyz, picking up on some comments made on both sites, explaining my own interests, and taking the inquiry a little further.

    On Zenpundit, Larry said, “Your need to destroy Assange is getting embarrassing. Why not make lemonaid?” and JN Kish, “The real story here should be about the data – and who is helping Assange – not Assange himself.” Meanwhile on ChicagoBoyz, a certain Gerald Attrick commented, “Ah, but as we say in in art crit: Deal with the Art and not the Man…”

    To Larry I would say, I think that my post WikiLeaks: Counterpoint at the State Department? — in which I point up the irony inherent in the same State Department spokesman celebrating World Press Freedom Day and chiding Assange for “providing a targeting list to a group like al-Qaida” on the same day — could as easily be read as pro-Assange as today’s post, Martyrdom, messianism and Julian Assange can be read as calling for his destruction.

    More generally, it seems to me that there are a whole lot of stories to be told here: the ones I wish to tell are those where I have a reasonably informed “nose” for relevant detail, and which tend to be overlooked by others — and thus have the potential to blindside us.

    *

    My own main interest is in tracking religious, mythic and apocalyptic themes in contemporary affairs, where they are all too easily overlooked, misunderstood or dismissed. Thus I have posted on Tracking the Mahdi on WikiLeaks, and added related material in section 1 of my post today.

    I am also interested in concept mapping, games and creative thinking — interests which led me to post WikiLeaks: Critical Foreign Dependencies and The WikiLeaks paradox, and more lightheartedly to take an amused sideways glance at WikiLeaks in The power of network visualization.

    And I certainly find Assange himself an interesting figure, and have done what I can to illuminate his background in mythology, religion and games in Wikileaks and the Search for a Cryptographic Mythology, again in Update: Wikileaks and Cryptographic Mythology and (again light-heartedly) in A DoubleQuote for Anders.

    *

    Let me be more explicit: I have no wish to lionize Assange, nor to feed him to the lions — I would like to understand him a little better.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Human Behavior, International Affairs, Internet, Iran, National Security, Religion, Society | 2 Comments »